An 'Autopsy' of DIY? If Any Zine Can Pull It Off, It's Cometbus

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Silke Tudor, in detail from the cover of Cometbus No. 59. (Cometbus)

One of the effects of the coronavirus crisis has been widespread grassroots organizing, be it among restaurant staff, health care workers or supermarket employees. And few people know about the highs and lows of grassroots movements quite like Aaron Cometbus. He's the creator of the zine Cometbus, which has chronicled punkhouses, squats, collectives and the like for the past four decades.

Aaron's latest issue is titled “Post-Mortem.” Its goal? To provide an autopsy on various underground movements: what went wrong, and what went right.

Aaron starts his series of interviews in the offices of Epitaph Records, who brought punk to the masses with the Offspring in the mid-1990s, then weaves his way through volunteer bookstores in San Francisco, independent publishers in Seattle, warehouses in New York and an art school in Vermont. (Aaron springs from the East Bay punk scene, and local institutions like Fat Wreck Chords and Thrasher magazine face his line of questioning, too.)

Along the way, an unflinching examination unfolds of financial irresponsibilities, reckless sexual liasons, getting harassed by police – and in Aaron's storytelling, it's sometimes hard to tell if these are liabilities or assets. Still, he delivers just as many inspiring success stories as he does sad eulogies, and paints DIY not as a relic of the past but as an ongoing continuum.

During the shutdown, reading Cometbus #59—with so much real-life, in-person action—is a hopeful reminder of what we'll be getting back to someday. With bookstores and record stores closed, you'll have to find Cometbus #59 online.